Review: Back to the Rock S2 – Episode 7 ‘This for That’

Published: May 15, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Capitalism comes to Fraggle Rock and leads to innovation and entrepreneurship, but also a widening wealth gap and the development of a class society. Okay, it doesn’t permeate quite that far. But for one afternoon, the Fraggles arbitrarily take up a bartering system suggested by a visitor and that taste is enough to make them go back to their communal ways and choose free love. Because what could go wrong in a love commune?

It all begins when Mokey can’t find anyone to help her paint a mural of Lanford. Then Pryce, a Fraggle from another cave, rolls in on a bunch of strawberries the Gorgs threw out and says that in his Fraggle community, they trade things, a “this for that” system. He suggests Mokey arbitrarily trade strawberries – not formerly a very valued possession in Fraggle Rock – for Fraggles’ help on the mural. And you know immediately where this episode is heading.

Soon, Fraggles are trading strawberries for activities and things that were free before and that they already did for fun or just to be kind. Gobo is now selling his songs. Red is selling dives. Everyone seems to be okay with the system until Boober – who doesn’t even like strawberries – needs to get strawberries to get rock soap so he can do laundry. He grumbles about things not being the same anymore and Mokey seems to wake up and look around at how this arbitrary bartering system is changing the idyllic vibe of the caves.

After a visit to Marjorie, Mokey decides that what she really values are love and community. All the Fraggles put the strawberries on a big communal table (made out of the mural they just painted of Lanford) and seem to give up this silly bartering system in favor of love and kindness.

It’s a nice tale. But it falls a bit short because there isn’t much at stake. Aside from Boober maybe having to put off laundry for a bit – and I know for Boober maybe that is a big ask – it’s not really enough to make us feel like much has changed. Laundry doesn’t pile up to the ceiling. Gobo doesn’t stop singing because nobody will give him strawberries. They all just keep on doing what they were doing before except holding strawberries – which are in unlimited supply and seem available to everyone. The Fraggles are no stranger to tackling the difficult topics, but keep superficial on this one, avoiding the introduction of  downsides like poverty, need, and shortages that would anchor this episode in meaning.

It becomes just an explanation of the bartering system and kids already get that. They trade sticks of gum for stickers in kindergarten. Kids also get the importance of currency. They have been told they can’t have something that costs too much. They get upset when they find out the tooth fairy gave their classmate way more money (but, seriously, where is this little tooth fairy handing out twenties for a baby tooth?). Love is more important than money in any home or friendship, but the difficulty of that lesson is a little washed out when the story doesn’t allow us to glimpse the reality of losing what we hold most valuable.

By contrast, Doc and Sprocket very effectively show how to determine the value of something in just a few short segments when Doc considers whether to take a new job. We get an understanding of what she will have to give up and how important it is to her. Also, Sprocket wears a captain’s  hat – twice – and I just feel that all lessons should be delivered with Sprocket in a captain’s hat.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger worthy of The Muppets Mayhem. Apple TV is gonna love this.

Strongest Moment: Doc and Sprocket. Sprocket’s yacht fantasy, the “genius” dance, the captain hats, the scale. Their relationship is truly a joy.

Weakest Moment: I don’t love Wembley’s diss on the Traveling Matt postcard. He says he’s kidding, but it came off as a dig and then he overcompensates with fake excitement. I mean, I don’t always love a Traveling Matt postcard in the middle of an episode, but I think a “no thanks” would do the trick. Or just smile because it’s important to your friend. Give us a chance to be excited.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Not a Fraggle, but I’m saying Pa Gorg. You heard me. In one brief appearance, he gave a memorable, on-the-nose line delivery that I am going to ensure catches on:  “We’re BBO now. Big Berries Only.”

Classic Musical Moment: Fitting use and good rendition of “Time to Live as One.” Not sure why they are singing over a mural of Lanford and not, like, a mural of the community, but Mokey and her Lanford… Speaking of, another favorite line: “Pryce, Pryce, Pryce. Yeah. We like songs.”

New Musical Moment:  I want to see where Gobo’s little ditty is headed: “Have you heard the newsie? I’m working on a doozie.” But “This for That” is also a toe-tapper. It does, however, sets Pryce up to be more of con artist, which doesn’t pay off when he isn’t. I was expecting more of a “T for Trouble” from Music Man situation.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Traveling Matt breakdancing. The crowd was delighted. I was delighted.

Fraggle Lore: So there’s another Fraggle community somewhere in the caves that has a “this for that” system.

One More Thing…:The little interactions between the characters really feel like a strength this season, like the World’s Oldest Fraggle and the meaning of life exchange and Mokey doing a duet with Lanfard reminiscent of Pete’s Dragon’s “I Love You, Too.”

Okay, One More Thing…: I enjoyed the Mokey vs Red understanding of the barter system. Mokey is a little slow to Pryce’s explanation (“I also love listing true things”) while Red takes half a second to catch on to Gobo’s mansplain and start trading berries for dives.

Click here to trade a strawberry for the ToughPigs Discord!

by L. Drake Lucas

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